Last week the German Ambassador said that a second No vote to Lisbon would have “horrific consequences” for Ireland.
On Tuesday the German Social Democrat spokesman on European affairs said that any economic assistance to Ireland would require “greater humility” from Dublin, a renewed commitment to the EU from Irish voters in a Lisbon Two referendum, and a better appreciation of “the common German and Irish interest” in continuing European integration.
Why this German anxiety over Lisbon?
One obvious reason is that the Lisbon Treaty would hugely advantage Germany, the EU’s largest Member State, by moving EU law-making to a primarily population basis and abolishing the weighted vote system for making EC/EU laws that has existed since the 1957 Rome Treaty.
By basing EU law-making primarily on population size, Lisbon would double Germany’s voting weight on the EU Council of Ministers from its present 8% under the Nice Treaty rules to 17%. France’s vote would go from 8% to 13%, Britain’s and Italy’s from their current 8% to 12% each, while Ireland’s voting weight would be halved from 2% to 0.8% (Art.16 TEU).
Under the present Nice Treaty arrangements Germany, France, Britain and Italy have 29 votes each in making EU laws and Ireland has 7 votes. An EU law requires 255 votes out of 345 and at least half the Member States have to vote in favour to make up those 255 votes. A “blocking minority” is 91 votes: that is, 345 minus 255 plus 1.
By contrast, under Lisbon a new European law would require the support of 55% of the Member States, i.e.15 out of 27, so long as the 15 make up 65% of the aggregate EU population. Germany has four times Ireland’s voting weight now: 29 votes as against 7. By basing votes on population size Lisbon would thereby give Germany 20 times Ireland’s voting weight, with its 82 million people as against Ireland’s 4.3.
France, Britain and Italy would each have some 15 times Ireland’s voting weight on a population basis, compared to their four times now.
Germany and France between them have nearly one-third of the EU’s total population. Under the proposed Lisbon Treaty rules Germany and France would need only two other countries to vote with them to be able to block any EU law they did not like.
Giving Germany and the other Big States more of a say in EU law-making is what German Ambassador Christian Pauls really means when he says Lisbon would make the EU more “efficient”!
If Lisbon goes through and gives Germany and the other Big States such an increase in their power, how long – realistically speaking – do people think Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax rate would last, as compared to Germany’s 30%?
How long would it be before the EU imposes its own income tax, sales tax or property tax on us – which would be permitted for the first time under Lisbon’s Article 311 TFEU and which Germany and France are likely to push for once the Council of Ministers would obtain the legal power ?
In the European Parliament when Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, Germany had 36 seats as against 10 for Ireland – 3.6 times as much. Under Lisbon, Germany would have 96 MEPs as against 12 for Ireland – 8 times as much.
The political reality is that there is now a race on in time between the ratification of Lisbon, which would greatly increase the powers of Germany, France and the Brussels Commission in the EU, and the advent to office of a Conservative Government in Britain by spring next year at the latest.
Conservative policy is to hold a referendum on Lisbon in the UK and recommend a No vote to it to the British people – so long as we Irish are not bullied and bamboozled into reversing our No vote before then, thereby bringing Lisbon into force for all 27 EU States before Mr Gordon Brown’s Government loses office.
By standing by last year’s No to Lisbon, we would thereby be opening the way to enabling our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland to have a vote also on this important Treaty.
- Anthony Coughlan, Director